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Hidden Lake Road Diary — 1/25/15: Robert Burns Birthday

Written by Deb Thomas.
Blizzard_2015_-_Mark_Twain
A day before the storm, the air is moist; already a good six inches of snow on the ground and tree limbs are bent. We are heading into this blizzard of 2015 anticipating a fulsome storm. Predictions are for a mighty, one-for-the-record-books storm; the second snow storm in three days. My family prepared for this wicked good snowstorm today by getting a few supplies, setting up the generator, and getting fuel for the snow blower and generator. I could recite the prep for storms, summer or winter by rote; it’s just something we’re aware of, something we do, something that’s a way of life if you’ve lived in New England for any amount of time.

What will we do to wait out the storm? There are books for me and knitting; I’m happy to sit it out. We can always play some games. If the power holds we can watch movies, play instruments or cards. For the record, I don’t like playing cards or board games, but it’s fun to laugh with my family. My husband and daughter like to play card games and my son likes a good game of chess now and then. I am fond of making up words in Scrabble, and it is fun to watch my family figure out if I’m bluffing.

The gas tanks on all vehicles are filled too, in the event we have to pretend the cars are bobsleds, I suppose. Where we’d be going—I don’t know, no one’s getting out of Dodge if there’s that much snow. To calm this crazy thinking, I’m making a meatloaf and potatoes for tomorrow before the storm comes. It’s what my mom and all her family did before her; cook a good meal and plan ahead. My mom is from the Midwest and was used to being prepared in the 1950’s and 60’s for snowstorms, and especially tornadoes–in warmer months. When we moved to Connecticut in 1967, I thought, “Yippee! No more tornadoes!” (but no one told me about hurricanes and that’s another story). Overall, the winters became milder here than they were south of Lake Michigan, too, yet, my parents still prepared the same way we always did. So, just like then – I’ll wait out this impending storm feeling as prepared as possible, and hope it’s that way for others, too. It just happens to be the 48th anniversary of a blizzard that swept the Midwest on January 26, 1967, too.

As a child, I experienced a lot of snowstorms living in Illinois, just south of Chicago. We lived on the edge of a prairie in a small town of about 11,000 people in the 60’s. At that time, prairie borders extended to the fields just to the west – across the main street from my home. The grasses rippled in the breezes blowing in from the plains; in the growing season, the grass was as green as an Amazon jungle; a vast plain of green upon green waves. Out there, those flatlands of the Midwest, west from Kansas and Missouri, were the breeding ground for severe thunderstorms. Late in the afternoon you could usually watch the thunderclouds building and filling up the wide open sky for miles looking to the west.

A new shopping center with an outdoor mall (like Clinton Crossing) went up near the commercial center of my town, Markham, Illinois. Main Street featured lots of roadside businesses; Main Street in Portland, CT reminds me of what it looked like. After World War II, rings of planned housing went up around this business district with a large park at its center. My school, Markham Park Elementary School, is at the edge of this park. It was an idyllic place for recess with trees at the back to sit under and read, or softball and kickball to play in the many rutted diamonds on that playing field. Swings and monkey bars and diabolic nausea-inducing spinning objects—rounded out the complement of playground items. I favored baseball because I was in love with Denny McLain, ace pitcher for the Detroit Tigers, but mostly because I could hit the ball far and hard. I lived for that first game of spring; sometimes with snow still mounded up against the trees in the field; I didn’t care as long as I could be up at bat.

There were corn and later, soybean fields all around my house near the outer boundary of the town, with a new housing development of about 200 homes to the south, called Country Club Hills. My house was across the street from those houses, at the northern corner of the crossroads of 167th Street and Crawford Avenue (Pulaski Avenue to the north, where it was closer to the city). Out where we lived, it ran for a million miles south and was a main trucking route before the new interstate was built. Trucks zoomed by all day and night going north to Chicago filled with cattle, corn, and other commerce. The Cities Service Gas Station on the corner opposite our house was the last gas station for a hundred miles when we first moved there. In both directions, you could hear the semis downshifting from far away coming up to our corner. I counted the gears down; my lullaby.

But oh, those dark skies and thunder clouds out west. As kids, we were taught to be aware of and respect those cumulonimbus clouds from the west; they produced spring storms that also spawned tornadoes. You could see thunderclouds building for what seemed like a hundred miles away to the west. If you climbed one of the oak trees in our yard,  you could see all the vegetation of the fields as a giant quilt; the dropseed grasses and corn, some new fields of soybeans, and the low weeds lining the irrigation ditches. The purple prairie asters and azure blue of the cornflowers met up with the planted crops; in this way, the patchwork stretched as far west as you could see.

Those same fields allowed the winter zephyrs to race unimpeded and scour the landscape, building drifts upon drifts of snow. Walking to school and riding my bike was wonderful in every season except when it rained or when the fiercest winds of winter bore down; the wind stung your face out in the open. We all wore swaddled scarves with only the narrowest of openings for eyes and noses. Our cheeks and noses froze just the same; our breath vapor condensed and froze in small patches on our scarves. My mom gave me a red hat to wear so she could see my head bobbing up and down as I walked home along 167th Street in case of heavy snow before I got home. It was a good thing she did that.

I don’t remember my parents being rushed to prepare for the winter storms; they were probably always prepared. If the power went out, during a snow storm, we played games, drank tea, and my mom read to us. We did not watch a lot of television; it wasn’t the focus of daily life. We helped my mom clear our driveway if my dad was at work and played in the snow. The driveway and sidewalks were a big chore; we were sweating and out of breath after doing it. The plows would obliterate the entrance to our driveway. These were State plow trucks with giant curved plow blades with side-sweeps-wings that seemed more like cowcatchers on ancient steam engines. I was afraid of those things when I was walking to or from school after it snowed. There wasn’t any place to go to get out of the way, except to climb on top of these snow walls. It was horribly scary to hear one coming from behind me as I knew I had to scramble up on top of the snow bank, fast!

It seems I wore two pairs of wool socks from October to March. Heaven help me if my feet got wet; even in wool, cold, wet feet were the worst. I had LL Bean “duck boots” from New England, which tied up tight, and also a pair of clunky old fashioned rain galoshes you put on and buckled over shoes. Those LL Bean boots were my favorite.  Ski pants with stirrups were a great invention for girls, and I wore long johns under those, too. We could keep a dry pair of sneakers at school on top of the coat rack in the hallway. All of my classmates and I looked like padded and stuffed dolls. Dresses did not come out of closets until Easter time; which was fine by me.

There was this one storm that came on with a fury that caught many by surprise. I was in the 5th Grade, and we were let out of school at lunch time on January 26th, 1967; it took me about 30 minutes to walk home during a non-stormy day. I liked to cut through Caputo’s corn field, however. My mom went crazy about me coming from the field when there was snow, so I stayed on the main road. I was with a group of friends from our school all down the long walk on Lawndale Avenue until we came to the state road. At the crosswalk, a guard helped the kids across the road to go to the Country Club houses. I said goodbye to my friends and had about a third of a mile to go.

It was there, without houses to block the wind that the full force of the unimpeded winter storm gale stampeded across the barren cornfields. It was only mid-day, and the sky was already a murky gray; by the time I was by Caputo’s farm, snow was coming down heavy in large flakes, and piling up fast.  I tried to stay on top of the snow bank, but every now I hit a crevice, and I’d sink deeply past my knees. Soon, my double layer of everything would be wet. Fearing some snow plow would cover me over if I remained down on the road, I stayed on top of the wall of snow as best as I could.

I did not get too far before the driving snow created a white-out. Everything suddenly vanished; I remember feeling like I was in a snow-globe. I navigated my way by the lights from the houses in Country Club Hills across the road for a little while, and then, nothing. The field to my right and everything all around me disappeared. The road was not visible–nor were my safety net of houses to my left. I stood still and began singing the Star Spangled Banner; it’s what I did as a kid so I could think. Or when I was afraid.

Snow and wind made the wires sing in the utility poles; a hellacious riot of whistles and thrumming, as if a bowstring was being plucked by a mad musician. The buzzing and spitting of wet snow made a sound like crackling white hot embers about to ignite. Oblique waves of snow hit me from every angle; the only sure thing was to get down off the side wall of snow–this hard packed bunker. If I could keep it to my right, I knew I could make it home. As long as a plow didn’t get me. I could not see a thing.

I had to keep my face down to avoid being stung by the snow; the wind was pushing at me from everywhere. I could not run, the wind nearly blew me over. Every so often I’d pause to try and see the snow wall on my right, but it was just barely visible. There was hardly anything to guide me; no cars, but thankfully no plows.

Since I’d walked this road for over three years to and from school, I thought, “I just need to find Caputo’s mailbox.” I knew I could make it from that point to my driveway in 1000 steps; I had counted these steps since second grade. I kept marching, one foot in front of the other. I missed the mailbox, but I was able to see where the Caputo’s must have plowed their farm driveway as there was an empty spot for about 10 feet. “Nine hundred ninety NINE!” I yelled back at the wind, enumerating the steps out loud.

Halfway to go or less, there was a break in the wind. Through the haze and blur of white, I could just make out some of the trees in the field, near my driveway. Soon, I saw our house appear through the snow; our upstairs kitchen light was my lighthouse. Up ahead, I could just make out a figure in black. I listened for the plows and kept going. Closer and closer I came, where I saw that it was my Mom in an overcoat at the end of our driveway. I could also just see the dot of the driveway light, and faintly hear her yelling my name over and over into the wind, but Coco’s barking for me was unmistakable. I yelled out to them over the wind’s roar, “I’m OK Mom, I’m OK!” She’d been watching for me from the kitchen, and finally spied my red hat through a brief lull in the blinding snow from the kitchen window. Bundling both herself and my little brother in a snow suit and a thick blanket, she set him on a sled. They came out to meet me with Coco on a leash. Her arms were wide open as she rushed forward to grab me out of the street with the relief and tears only a mom knows. I was exhausted. It had taken me almost an hour and a half to get home.

After the snow, after the winds, after the snowplow beasts and howling wolves of winter, I was home; I was safe and warm and home.

My dad made it home just after me. He had left Chicago before noontime and had faced the same whiteout. He pulled his green truck in our long driveway, as far as he could by the driveway lamp. Snow fell all night long. We lost power, but we were warm due to having a gas powered furnace.  That night, I am sure my brother and I went to bed dreaming of snowmen and snow forts. There would be hikes pretending to be Pottawatomie Indians on the hunt in the days ahead; searching for animal tracks along the oak-tree-trail out back. (We had a line of bent-over oak trees lining one edge of our property in the back. I learned later they could be indicative of a trail marked by Native Americans. All along the road north, parallel to Crawford Avenue, were these large and wondrous bent over trees. Our Fifth Grade Teacher Mr. Ritchie told me the story as he understood these trees to “trail marker trees.” Read more about them here.

It snowed all day Friday too; we listened to WLS Radio out of Chicago on my transistor radio for information about the weather, punctuated by music and other news.

My parents had used a short rope to hold the storm door closed, and it worked very well. I remember there was a four foot wall of snow against that door when we finally opened the interior door on Saturday. We opened the garage door and shoveled our way out through that opening. It was an impressive sight to see a wall of snow. We were in a snow fortress.

The snow stopped almost two days after it began, and Saturday morning sunshine brought a crystalline brilliance to the landscape; fresh, crusted snow blanketed everything.  The land beyond our yard wore a white glaze. The poplars and pussy willows, lilacs and other small shrubs around our house all clotted with snow and looked like bent-over giants huddling together. Everywhere you looked, there was a strange and cold beauty in the tundra-like topography to all the farm fields. In the absence of the screaming winds, there was a peaceful, tranquil caesura of daylight. Everything was quiet and smooth, and beckoning; waiting for me to come out and play.

Many weren’t prepared, and several days after the storm, the National Guard brought bread and milk and peanut butter (from what I recall) to the corner across from our house via helicopter. There was a Military Artic Cat with tank-like treads that finally plowed its way to our intersection. Many people had trekked to the gas station from the housing development; a woman was going to have a baby, and she rode to a local hospital aboard the same helicopter that brought food. We learned much later about the kids who had to stay overnight in some of the other schools in Markham, and parents who became stranded at work in the city. By the weekend, the power was restored, and we saw the news on television with pictures of all the snow, reports of looting, and city streets clogged with cars. Here is an excerpt from a NOAA report:

On the morning of January 26, Meigs Field located on the lakeshore reported thundersnow. Winds gusted to 53 mph (85 km/h) were reported at Midway Airport. The high winds produced considerable blowing and drifting of the heavy snowfall. During the late morning hours, snow accumulated at a rate of 2 inches (5 cm) per hour.

Many businesses and schools released their employees and students early, others just left work early, but the commute was a nightmare. At many street corners, commuters by the dozens waited in vain for buses that never came. During the early afternoon rush, the only transportation running with any regularity was Chicago’s famed L trains that moved above the snow-filled streets. Unfortunately, not everyone was able to get the L out of Chicago.

Rush hour definitely was not a rush, more a “sit-and-wait” that dragged on for hours as traffic tried to crawl out of the city. Many never arrived home. Those that did often arrived hours later than usual. One woman reported the usual 35-minute drive home from her office on Wacker Drive to the North Side, took 4 hours that evening.

Rather than be trapped in their cars, most drivers abandoned their vehicles where they sat and decided to walk. But not everyone got home, even by traveling on foot. The deep snow, tall drifts, and howling winds physically exhausted many walkers fighting the stinging snow. Some spent the night at gas stations, in schools or in buses and trains. Others camped out in downtown hotels, O’Hare International Airport, and even in stranded cars.

Others decided to stay at work, and many took extra shifts because their replacements never arrived. In the south suburb of Markham, 650 students in four schools camped out in the school libraries and gymnasiums because school buses could not get through.

(I highlighted the bit about school kids having to stay at school. My small school did not have buses; we all walked and I was the farthest one out, about 8/10ths of a mile).

All of it; those snow forts and wet feet, the smell of soggy woolen mittens and my red hat drying on those big wall to wall window ledge heaters in our classroom, disappearing in the ocean of white, and my mom, brother and dog, and hot tea at home waiting for me—all those things seem like they just happened. That whiteout was a difficult thing to experience; it’s only a little less harsh since time has taken off the edge. I prefer to think about the good memories of the snow and the making of the big snow-castle at our playground all the kids made when we were back at school.

Those things all come flooding back to me like scenes from a long ago movie when I’m watching snow fall here in Higganum. Those things, I want to do again and again.

Hidden Lake Road Diary—Hidden Lake Road Comes Out From Hiding

Wednesday and Thursday, January 28 & 29, 2015

“It’s here; on the other side of winter, having crossed its icy tracks along the way. And the sun, getting warmer by the minute, and the light lingers longer in the day. We’ve made it, to the other side of winter, where the icicles drip puddles down below. Just listen to the birds sit and chatter on a wire, and the gopher looking for his shadow…” (Jennifer Nixon, “The Other Side of Winter”)

Well, not quite yet.

I spent Tuesday afternoon watching the news, and social media, untangling yarn and later–making Irish Soda Bread and coffee while my family snow-blowed and shoveled. My husband’s car waited safely tucked away in his spacious garage, but the beastly winds doth blow and just about buried the rest of the fleet. The kids’ cars got cleared off as they needed them for school on Wednesday, but the Big Red Tick (the minivan) may lay sleeping under its snowy blanket until spring. I have to take care of a tricky ankle soon and have zero desire to test its better nature.

My daughter’s boyfriend is delivering a load of wood today for the basement wood stove; warm floors make this little house very cozy. There’s about seven weeks until the Spring Equinox; the extra peanut butter and jelly and crackers can stay unused until then and beyond. Our weathermen predicted a mess for the whole of our state, but it turns out that the storm formed more to the east. Consequently, the eastern half of Connecticut, north to Worcester and further east in Boston got blasted. Block Island, Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard got walloped too. You just never know.

Higganum from Swan Hill (before the Blizzard)

Higganum from Swan Hill (before the Blizzard)

In the meanwhile, I’m going to look at more snow-fall pictures from around town. I love seeing the photos of the intrepid hikers who braved Swan Hill the night before and the day after; that’s a terrific hike in our trail system, and well-marked. Kudos to our stellar road crews and all our First Responders who are always ready.Higganum_Swan_Hill_Trail_Signs

I hear a “Quick Moving Clipper,” may impact our weather outlook this Friday. There’s a forecast for a significant winter storm developing along the East Coast next week, south of us in Connecticut, which could go out to sea or come ashore further up the New England coastline.

After living in Connecticut for forty-seven years, these storms don’t frighten me. I’m going to stay prepared. I believe Midwesterners and New Englanders have learned how to stay ready for most contingencies.

Higganum Night Hike post blizzard

Higganum Night Hike post blizzard

My prediction (not a unique viewpoint) is for continued long-john, snow blowing, shoveling, red-hat-wearing weather; with a couple of near blizzards thrown in the mix. So take care Haddam; there may be as few as 7 or so weeks until flip flop wearing begins. For goodness sake, stock up on tried and true non-perishable staples, and maybe add a few goodies from our wonderful grocery stores, now one in Tylerville and Higganum. Continue to buy batteries and French Toast making ingredients and please protect those pets. I’m going to get back to watching the skies and knitting another of red hat.

Pictures by Kai S. Meyers

Notes: Here is a NOAA accounting of the storm that hit Chicagoland during January 26, 1967 the website contains all the photos and graphs.

January 1967 had been a roller coaster for weather in Illinois. A week or so prior to the storm, temperature in Chicago had plummeted to a bone-chilling 8 oF (-13 oC). On 24 January, the temperature had soared to a spring-like 65 oF (18.3 oC) and the low that morning was 44 oF (6.7 oC), both records for the date that still stand. Thunderstorms rolled across northeastern Illinois during the evening. The wind gusts, reaching 48 mph (77 km/h) at Chicago’s Midway Airport, blew down a wall of a building under construction at 87th and Stoney Island. The collapse killed one worker and injured four others. In the southwestern section of the city, funnel clouds were sighted.

On Wednesday 25 January, a cold front was moved across the upper Midwest replacing the mild weather of the previous day with more seasonal temperatures. A strong (1032mb / 30.48 in Hg) high pressure cell of arctic air situated over the Canadian Prairies was pushing into the northern American Plains. An upper level trough moving across the southern Rockies spawned a surface low near the Texas Panhandle. By midnight, the developing low had moved to central Oklahoma. As the upper level winds swung eastward, the cyclone developed the characteristic frontal wedge and moved toward the Ohio Valley.

While the low headed northeastward, the Canadian high, rather than push southeastward which is most often the case, slid eastward over Lake Superior and funneled dry arctic air from the northeast into the Great Lakes. The low, now situated over southern Missouri, sent warm and very moist air out of the Gulf Coast northward toward the Lakes. Where the two contrasting air streams met, the weather would become downright nasty. Late Wednesday morning, the Chicago office of the US Weather Bureau issued the following forecast:

ISSUED 945 PM WEDNESDAY JANUARY 25TH
HAZARDOUS DRIVING WARNING LATE TONIGHT AND THURSDAY…REMAINDER OF TONIGHT…CLOUDY AND COLDER WITH SNOW POSSIBLY MIXED WITH FREEZING RAIN BEGINNING LATE TONIGHT. LOW IN THE UPPER 20S. CHANCE OF PRECIPITATION 50 PERCENT.
THURSDAY…SNOW MIXED WITH FREEZING RAIN LIKELY. HIGH IN THE LOWER 30S. NORTHEAST TO EAST WINDS 10 TO 20 MPH. CHANCE OF PRECIPITATION GREATER THAN 90 PERCENT.

During the night, it became obvious that the storm track would move south of Chicago through the Ohio Valley, putting Northeastern Illinois and Northern Indiana in the most likely region for heavy snow. With a strong pressure gradient between the two weather systems, the arctic winds would howl over Lake Michigan, and add a lake-effect component to the storm’s snowfall. In addition, the strong winds would cause considerable blowing and drifting of the snow.

Based on these factors, the Chicago forecast office issued the following weather warning overnight:

ISSUED AT 345 AM THURSDAY JANUARY 26
…HEAVY SNOW WARNING…TODAY…SNOW WITH ACCUMULATIONS OF 4 INCHES OR MORE BY THIS AFTERNOON. HIGH IN THE LOWER 30S. NORTHEAST WINDS 15 TO 25 MPH. CHANCE OF PRECIPITATION GREATER THAN 90 PERCENT. TONIGHT…SNOW DIMINISHING OR ENDING. COLDER WITH THE LOW NEAR 20. NORTH TO NORTHEAST WINDS 15 TO 25 MPH. CHANCE OF PRECIPITATION 80 PERCENT.

As the storm system approached, the winds shifted to the north, then backed to northeast and rose to 15-20 mph (24-32 km/h). Snow began early Thursday morning (around 5 AM), but commuters generally ignored the heavy snow warning, and most Chicagoans made the morning trip to work and school with only minor incidents.

But as the storm moved closer to the city, it became obvious that the forecast accumulation was too low, and Chicago sat in a small sector of the storm which would receive more snow than expected. The Weather Bureau’s mid-morning forecast upped the snowfall accumulation expected:

ISSUED AT 945 AM THURSDAY JANUARY 26
…HEAVY SNOW WARNING…TODAY…AN ADDITIONAL 4 TO 8 INCHES. WINDY WITH STEADY TEMPERATURES. NORTHEAST WINDS 25 TO 35 MPH. CHANCE OF PRECIPITATION 100 PERCENT.
TONIGHT…SNOW DIMINISHING AND ENDING. COLDER WITH THE LOW 10 TO 15. NORTH TO NORTHWEST WINDS 15 TO 30 MPH. CHANCE OF PRECIPITATION 50 PERCENT.

Thursday 26 January: Faster and Deeper

During the day, the upper level trough swung through the mid and lower Mississippi Valley. An upper level low began to develop near the Missouri/Arkansas border. As the storm system strengthened, so did the clash of cold, dry and warm, moist airs. In Chicago and surrounding areas, the snow was falling fast and accumulating deep. By noon, 8 inches (20 cm) had already accumulated causing O’Hare International Airport to shut down. By noon, hotels across the city faced an unexpected need for rooms as conventioneers, packing to go home, had their flights cancelled. Then word spread across the city of the awful travel conditions and many Chicagoans tried to book rooms rather than return to suburban homes.

On the morning of January 26, Meigs Field (an airport) located on the lakeshore reported thundersnow. Winds gusted to 53 mph (85 km/h) were reported at Midway Airport. The high winds produced considerable blowing and drifting of the heavy snowfall. During the late morning hours, snow accumulated at a rate of 2 inches (5 cm) per hour.

Many businesses and schools released their employees and students early, others just left work early, but the commute was a nightmare. At many street corners, commuters by the dozens waited in vain for buses that never came. During the early afternoon rush, the only transportation running with any regularity was Chicago’s famed L trains that moved above the snow-filled streets. Unfortunately, not everyone was able to get the L out of Chicago.

Rush hour definitely was not a rush, more a “sit-and-wait” that dragged on for hours as traffic tried to crawl out of the city. Many never arrived home. Those that did often arrived hours later than usual. One woman reported the usual 35-minute drive home from her office on Wacker Drive to the North Side, took 4 hours that evening.

Rather than be trapped in their cars, most drivers abandoned their vehicles where they sat and decided to walk. But not everyone got home, even by travelling on foot. The deep snow, tall drifts and howling winds physically exhausted many walkers fighting the stinging snow. Some spent the night at gas stations, in schools or in buses and trains. Others camped out in downtown hotels, O’Hare International Airport, and even in stranded cars.

Others decided to stay at work and many took extra shifts because their replacements never arrived. In the south suburb of Markham, 650 students in four schools camped out in the school libraries and gymnasiums because school buses could not get through.

The snow affected the commuter rail lines as well. Thousands of commuters daily rode the Chicago, South Shore and South Bend Railroad, the last interurban electric line, into the city, but by evening it ceased operating due to the heavy snow, and would not resume its full schedule until 20 February.

The Expressways and Toll ways fared no better. All attempts to clear these highways were fruitless as the howling northerly winds blew the snow back minutes after the snowplows passed. As a result, these thoroughfares, like the city streets, became parking lots.

Around midnight, the winds shifted to the north and continued to back to the northwest as the low pressure center, whose central pressure now stood at 997mb (29.44 in Hg), slid into central Indiana. Blowing at gale force, the winds caused severe drifting, leaving drifts as high as 6 feet (1.83 m) in Chicago and 8-10 feet (1.40-3.05 m) at Ogden Dunes on the shores of Lake Michigan in Indiana.

Friday 27 January: Snow Ends, But…

Morning light brought the realization that the nation’s second largest city was paralyzed. All Chicago’s transportation systems were at a standstill. The airports and the city’s main thoroughfares were closed; streets were clogged with abandoned and stranded vehicles — an estimated 50,000 cars and 1100 CTA buses. Michigan Avenue in the downtown core was deserted save for a few hardy pedestrians, some sporting snowshoes. Helicopters were used to deliver medical supplies to hospitals and food and blankets to stranded motorists.

Those who decided to venture out soon gave up and returned home. The few who reached their workplace generally arrived so late, they too turned around and went home. Understaffed grocery stores faced crowds of people waiting to buy food, and shelves were soon cleared of bread and milk. In many buildings and homes, heating oil ran low, and delivery trucks could not access the buildings due to the deep snow.
Even emergency workers could not get around normally. Firefighters unable to take their trucks down blocked streets walked to fires. Helicopters flew emergency cases to hospitals. Several expectant mothers reached delivery rooms by bulldozer, snowplow and toboggans, but many delivered at home. In some areas on the west and near-south sides of the city looting was rampant; 273 looters were arrested. A young girl was killed, caught in the crossfire while police shot at looters.

Heavy snow continued unabated until around 0400 on the 27th. The snow finally stopped falling onto the city at 10:10 AM, 29 hours after it had begun. The official measurement of 23.0 inches (58.4 cm) confirmed the storm was the single greatest snowstorm to date in Chicago history. At Ogden Dunes, the Weather Bureau Cooperative Observer Robert A. Ward reported snow depths had reached 21.5 inches (54.6 cm) with drifts 8-10 ft (1.40-3.05 m).

But all was not over for Chicago and vicinity. The cleanup had barely begun and for some hours, the winds continued to rearrange the drifts, often tossing back what plows and shovels had cleared. The biggest obstacle the cleanup crews faced was the sheer number of abandoned vehicles that had to be moved before the streets could be cleared. In some neighborhoods, residents formed impromptu, cooperative shoveling operations to clear their blocks.

Mayor Richard Daley sent a workforce of 2500 with 500 pieces of equipment to clear the streets. Working all night, they hoped to get the city back on its feet. The county amassed 150 workers and 75 pieces of equipment, and the state used 200 pieces of equipment to battle the snow.

The low that had caused all the trouble continued to deepen (990mb / 29.23 in Hg) and began to occlude as it moved into Ohio and continued on a northeasterly track over Lake Erie. By midnight it was over south central Ontario.

Saturday 28 January: Cleaning Up

By morning, city, county and state work crews had made progress against the mass of snow. Rapid transit lines and commuter rail service were again operating, and CTA buses were able to cover most routes. In addition to crews from the local governments, the Chicago region received aid from their neighboring states Iowa, Wisconsin and Michigan who sent snow removal equipment including giant snow blowers.

Snow was initially hauled by dump truck to the Chicago River, but the immense amount — an estimated 75 million tons — proved a “storage” problem. Many empty railcars were filled then with the snow and sent south to Florida and Texas. With tongue-in-cheek humor, the cars destined for Florida were designated as gifts for Florida children who had never seen snow. In some places, the snow pushed into immense piles later hardened into ice, and some of these mini-glaciers lasted until March.

The Aftermath

By Sunday 29 January, the major highways in the Calumet region southeast of the city finally reopened. Many area side streets, however, would remain snowed in until February. O’Hare International reopened at 6 PM Sunday evening. But conditions were not optimal by Monday’s morning rush hour. Motorists were urged to leave their cars at home and take public transportation, and this put a strain on the system. Schools remained closed until Tuesday as many teachers were still unable to get to classes, and heating fuel was low in many schools.

Relief from snow was not long. Another system moved across the region on Wednesday 1 February and dumped an additional 4 inches (10 cm) on the city. Remembering the chaos of the previous week, many residents left work early and there was a run on groceries stores and hotels. A third storm hit on Sunday 5 February but city crews were able to keep streets and roads clear and traffic moving. By Monday morning, an additional 8.5 inches (21.6 cm) had accumulated with 11 inches (27.9 cm) in the suburbs.

The Tally and the Record Book

By the time the series of storms had ended, the 1967 snowstorm likely caused the biggest disruption in the City of Chicago since the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Sixty deaths were attributed to the storm, a large portion from heart attacks while shoveling snow. One clergyman was run over by a snowplow, and a ten-year-old girl had died in the crossfire shooting between police and looters.

The economic losses came to $150 million, about $904 million in 2006 dollars. The cost of snow removal alone for Chicago tallied $8-10 million ($48.2-69.2 million).

The weather records set for the city include:

– Greatest snowfall in a calendar day – 16.4 inches (41.7 cm) on 26 January 1967 (this was surpassed when 18.6 inches (47.2 cm) fell on 2 January 1999)
– Greatest snowfall in a 24 hour period – 19.8 inches (50.3 cm) 26-27 January 1967
– Greatest snowfall from a storm – 23.0 inches (58.4 cm) 26-27 January 1967
– Greatest snow depth – Additional snows brought the snow depth to 27 inches (68.6 cm) by 6 February 1967. (This was surpassed when 29 inches (73.7 cm) covered the ground 14 January 1979.)
– Greatest snowfall for a season – The winter of 1966-1967 set the record for Chicago with a total of 68.4 inches (173.7 cm). (The record was surpassed in the winters of 1969-1970, 1977-1978, and 1978-1979.)
– A total of 36.5 inches (92.7 cm) of snow fell on the city during the 11 day period from 26 January through 5 February 1967, which is close to the normal snowfall for an entire season! Snow covered the ground until 10 March.

Officially, the 1967 snowstorm was the greatest on record for Chicago since official records began in 1870, and no account of any greater snowfall previous to 1870 in unofficial records back to 1859 has been found. The only possible competition might have come during Illinois’ Winter of the Deep Snow in 1830-1831 when Chicago was still Fort Dearborn.

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